MarkedUp, which offers analytics to mobile apps makers, is going after the growing Windows 8 apps market by offering a mobile apps analytic tool that will even tell you what your app is doing in people's hands when they are sitting in an airplane, or in other instances when they don't have their wireless connection on.
Aaron Stannard, CEO of MarkedUp, says that this is a step ahead of what other apps analytics tools do, and that it's the natural progression of analysis tools for applications and user activities that are escaping the web browser and living on any device.
"The diff between a four star and a five star app is something that people can use offline. Look at a news reader that people are going to be able to use on an airplane. You can use MarkedUp to take a look at how many people try to start the app when they have no connectivity whatsoever," says Stannard. This is vital intelligence for developers.
This offer is now live for Microsoft Bizspark members. You can get free analytics for your Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps as of today. Stannard says that they have already done some testing for Windows Phone 8, and when that phone is widely released developers will be able to get functionality for those apps.
This analytics tool will help developers understand what features of their mobile or desktop based apps are working, which parts users like, "They will show you how often content is used by end users, how often the app crashes, and what types of devices or screens they use to access your application," says Stannard. The company has signed on a very large video game company for their mobile based games, but Stanndard is not able to reveal the name. The company is using the analytics tool to figure out how to improve the commercial api for its products.
One of the great things about MarkedUp is that it is positioned to take advantage of the waves of people moving to develop native apps.
Stannard told me, "Our focus is 100% on native applications. It doesn't matter to us if its desktop apps or mobile. In a web app focused world the dev owns 100% of the real estate. They have full control over all of that data that passes through that relationship. In the mobile world, things are different. You have to act within the constraints of the sandbox. You also have to support environments there you don’t have control of the internet connection."
This tool will be available to Microsoft BizSpark members on the offers page.
The Windows 8 launch is right around the corner and recently Microsoft and New York Tech Meetup teamed up to host a workshop and hackathon @WeWork Lounge in NYC.
This blog post was written by Neha Bhaskar, SR CHANNEL & ECOSYSTEM Marketing Manager at Microsoft, in NYC.
There were some really cool demos there with Purpella winning the hackathon with their supercool app and design. Here’s a brief interview with their Chief Designer Lena and Co-founder. Daniel.
Tell us a bit about your app
Purpella is a tool to build human connections and the best app you can find to meet with people with similar interests in small groups. We help people start small gatherings before or after cool events in your city-maybe grab a dinner or drinks together before a concert. You can choose the venue, time around the event.
It really helps build genuine human connections amongst people with similar interests.
What came first for you-the team or the idea?
For us, the team definitely came first. We’re a bunch of designers, developers and marketers who’ve been involve with the startup community for long. Lena-our Chief Designer graduated Rhode Island School of Design. Dan is the co-founder of Startups.hk
aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship among the youth in Hong Kong.
What inspired you to work on this idea?
There are a lot of applications that let you do things offline-such as order food from home instead of sharing a meal with friends. A lot of our lives are losing that human connection.
We wanted to change that and get people together to do something together and build those personal connections. We feel that those connections are best built in small groups–so you could meet over a meal before a concert or share a cab ride together.
And how far along are you in your app development?
We’re still a small team of about 10 people. We’ve been working on this since mid-April and just did a soft Beta launch with friends and family. We hope to have a website up and running in November for a broader launch.
We’ve been totally blown away by the new Windows Phone and Windows 8 User Experience and hope to have a Windows Phone app in December followed by a Windows 8 app. We’re looking for developers to come work with us on that!
What motivated you to start in NYC vs Silicon Valley?
We feel our app is very applicable and valuable to NYC. A lot of people, when they finish school, move to NYC. You lose old connections and it’s a new circle of friends you need to make. So we wanted to launch this in the city. Sometimes it’s hard to make those personal connections in a huge city like NYC and we help you build that. NYC is also the capital of events in the country- everything from exhibitions, performances, events etc.
Though NYC still has some catching up to do with Silicon Valley, the tech scene here is growing very fast. We see 3-4 tech events every night here! And Tech Talent has not been an issue for us –most of us have known each other from before.
Who would you like to be your mentor, and why?
Well, there’s the three everyone says-Paul Graham, Peter Theil and Ron Conway.
We really like meetup.com and that has a lot of lessons for us. Scott (co-founder) did a really good job of building the first offline community and would have great input for us.
Another personal favorite is Steve Ballmer. The past couple of years have seen amazing innovation from Microsoft and we can’t wait for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. We love the User Interface!
When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
Lena: Since I’m a designer. I love the new focus on Natural User Interface and touch in the industry.
We are really blown away with Windows Phone. It’s a really consistent design language, with authentically digital content before chrome. It’s quick, responsive with a clean and concise experience. Very impressive how the Microsoft design strategy has evolved
Daniel: I love DropBox. lt’s so elegant and easy to use-very applicable to startups.
Any Advice to others?
Daniel: It’s good to have many ideas but get focused on one. Have a clear plan on what to do and start with putting your team together.
Lena: Success requires a true combination of great talent coming together from all fields-marketing. Biz Dev, design and development. Make sure you have fun along the way!
We walked around and talked to the founders of some of the incredible BizSpark companies presenting in the pavilion at DEMO Fall.
You can get inside information and a free peek at one of the most important conferences for startup, by visiting our live feed page (watch this instead of doing your work at your desk!), or by checking (and getting jealous about) all the great pictures people are taking at the parties, the presentations and during the chats in the hall.
Also, don't forget that Douglas Crets, Microsoft BizSpark community manager, is going around and finding other BizSpark companies to interview. He ran into Michael Jacobs and Jordan Syms, who are making iSocialite, at lunch.
Here's Victor Karkar, co-founder and CEO of Scrible, which is helping people do smarter online research using collaborative note-taking.
He was joined at the kiosk by another company that offers backend support via Azure for apps developers. Curvanade CEO Mikael Eriksson says that his support system is so good that they can theoretically support LinkedIn in the backend. He showed me how it worked, and I like the collaborative aspect to his company, as well as the blindingly fast speed, "nearly greater than realtime".
I thought I would also show you this very quick (and rather messy) photo I took of his app on the iPhone. Kind of cool to see the Metro design on the iPhone device.
We got a kick out of talking with Ami Gal, from Israel. He uses Windows Azure in the back end -- along with some other Microsoft Stack Technologies -- to process big data loads for banks and other institutions. SQREAM Technologies basically has a kind of set top box for the big data clients.
Lastly, we have Frank Chiang, of Phorego, a kind of trip-matching software for the mobile. This app works by connecting people who need rides with people who can give rides. Here's the pitch on this:
When Microsoft first offered me a job at Microsoft to help them manage 50,000 startups that had joined Microsoft BizSpark for the free software and the community support, I had to admit, I wasn't sure what to think.
but I talked to the woman who would eventually become my boss, and that entire conversation, which I will remember forever, was about having hustle, and being able to change the world through startups. I was inspired. I was inspired, in no small part by the idea that something so big, so gargantuan as Microsoft would be open to hundreds of thousands of developers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and risk-takers wanting to use our free software, free Azure cloud hosting, and more.
Everyone knows Microsoft. It's the world's largest software company. It has a reputation for being a big giant of a company that moves not too fast, and has pretty much created how the world uses software.
But did they really support startups? It took some questions, and then six months of working here to realize that not only do they support startups, there is a group of people behind the walls at Microsoft that are certainly very human, and very passionate about innovation. And they are using Microsoft BizSpark to not only change the way people think about the company, but to make sure that the future global economy is the one created by startups in the digital space. And that's no BS.
This blog post was written by Douglas Crets, Community Manager at Microsoft BizSpark.
there is no greater testament to the power of being in a startup and the ability to affect change than the cold-call. Calling someone out of the blue, because you have an idea, and you want to see it realized. Be it to sell someone something, to pitch an idea, or to ask for money and support, the startupper, as he or she is affectionately called, must perfect the cold call.
I've got evidence for this claim. And I want to share with you a classic example of what a BizSpark company needs to do -- and does -- to make their way in the world. I want to show you and share with you a prime example of a cold call email.
Why? Because all startuppers need inspiration, because the hubris of the startup founder is that he, in all of his insane risk-taking and world changing thrill-seeking, believes that really, anyone out in the world would LOVE to hear this idea, and should.
The truth is, maybe people will not want to hear this idea, but there is a saying, "Hope attracts opportunities and chances."
That's the startup credo. This is the same credo shared and lived by the humans who work, and breathe Microsoft BizSpark literally 24 hours of the day.
I present to you, The Startupper.
This is Scott Hasbrouck, founder of a new education startup and Microsoft BizSpark company. He emailed me, out of the blue, to tell me that he remembered something that I wrote several months ago. His startup is Gingkotree. He writes code for Ginkgotree in an abandoned warehouse. He writes:
This BizSpark company just finished a term with Y-Combinator and is actively working with large clients in the media space as they scale to 1 million customers. We asked their CEO, Michael Fitzgerald, a few questions about their experience as a team running a successful startup.
First, a little bit about Submittable. I met these guys in San Francisco, as they were beginning their time at Y-Combinator, and they revealed to me that they were working on a light box-style publishing solution for document sharing. It's much more than that, but here are the basics. Everything on the web is a duplicate of a duplicate of a duplicate. If you are using document sharing services, nobody is looking at the same document. They are looking at copies of what everyone else is doing. And through some kind of mojo, when changes are made to the document, it all sometimes gets back together in the right way and no headaches. But not always. There's usually a snarl up.
Submittable's Fitzgerald, seen standing in Missoula, Montana between members of his team, wanted to solve this by making sure that when a team looked at a document, they were only looking at a single document, the same document. Take away the submission management headaches, offer a huge scaling platform for publishers, and you are on your way to a nice business.
What have you learned about managing a technological business that you would pass on to the next generation?
Product is not 100% technology. In the last few years design and tone of the company have become just as important. Don’t make software, make a product, something people enjoy. Coming from a developer background, I always assumed the tech part drove the company.
What was the most difficult challenge your business faced this year?
Working through each stage of growth: getting the first 100 customers, then scaling from 1K to 10K. We’re now trying to get to 1M, and there are new challenges.
Also, raising money in Missoula, Montana was an invigorating experience!
How do you know when you are failing in product development and how do you make a correction – do you make the decision on your own, or do you consult your team?
User feedback and Signup vs. Adoption rate. We talk directly with potential and existing customers. You can hear it in their voices when something is less than impressive in the product.
What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?
Lots of interaction, good or bad, is usually good. Even if people are complaining about lack of features or bugs, this means they care.
When you need to ask questions on your team, who do you go to? Who do you usually turn to outside of your organization to ask questions?
We have some amazing angel investors and advisors. Each seems to have a particular skill set. One is perfect at money problems. Two have built their own software companies from nothing. I check in with them constantly. We’ve had some disagreements, but even those, in retrospect, were helpful.
One thing entrepreneurs (and people in general) don’t always understand is that people enjoy helping people who are screwed. First time entrepreneurs are screwed from Day 1! If you’re demonstrating that you’re working hard, you’re not just trying to get rich or waste someone’s time, people will go out of their way to help you, often expecting little in return. One sign of an amateur angel investor is when they’re more concerned about valuation or their own piece of the pie rather than just doing everything humanly possible for the company to succeed.
Who would you like to be your mentor, and what would you ask him or her?
We’re very lucky to have the mentors we have.
Who is your mentor, and what was the last great thing he or she told you and your team?
We have a few great mentors: Glenn Kreisel & Steve Saroff (built and sold 2 companies), Corbin Day (a low-key, but hands-on and brilliant angel investor), and the seminal Paul Graham and his Y Combinator.
What has overjoyed you in the past month?
1) A customer (The editor from The Rumpus) I met yesterday said this: “This aspect of my job sucked until we started using Submittable. My inbox was a nightmare. Submittable saves me 30 minutes a day and from significant anxiety.”
2) Another customer told me we were “Saving Publishing.” That felt great.
3) We moved to Mountain View recently as part of Y Combinator. As a result, our team is living and working together (in the same small apartment). It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve gelled in a way we hadn’t before. Seeing how much work is getting done, the level of intensity and quality, has me overjoyed. Also, our customer-base has recently expanded dramatically with our introduction of custom forms. This has been amazing.
Who inspired you the most this week, and why?
My partners John and Bruce have almost completed a feature (custom forms) in about three weeks that I thought would take 4 months.
When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
I have a pretty heavy crush on Freshbooks. I’m presently in a bad relationship with our own product: wild swings from loving it blindly to hating every screen. We break up every Friday night, then I propose again on Monday morning.
What does something in your business vertical need in order for the product to be successful?
People to procreate and create art and literature. People to put themselves out there.
What came first for your company – the product idea or your existence on the internet?
We conceived of and built a product for about a year called Submishmash. That product slowly morphed into what we are now, Submittable.
Is the lean startup process a type of marketing, or is marketing different from customer and product development? How does your company utilize next generation marketing techniques?
We talk directly with our users and potential users via social networks, email, and blogging. We try to be as transparent as possible. For us, this transparency and openness has become a huge part of our marketing. If someone has a technical issue, our CTO will get on the phone with them. It can get harried, but ultimately leads to great word of mouth. I would call this our marketing strategy: talk with our audience instead of at them. Lean marketing sort of blends into all aspect of your company: customer support, branding, newsletters, social networks, all the ways you communicate about and from your company.
Has starting your own company provided any answers about your life? Have you discovered something about yourself that you didn’t know before?
Definitely. It’s changed everything. I mean, this isn’t news: the harder something is, the more rewarding. Also, prior to starting a company, I guess I thought business was wonky bullshit. I’ve found that starting a company has much more in common with art than I ever anticipated. Similar to starting a band or writing a novel, you’re driving without headlights. No one asked you to do it. No one cares if you succeed. It’s just you and your partners making something out of nothing. In this way, it’s a beautiful and gratifying process, even when it’s failing, but when it’s actually working: magic.
Here's an amazing fact about Africa: You can fit nearly all of the land masses of nearly all of the most economically prolific countries in the world INSIDE Africa. See this graphic below, courtesy of a question on Quora.
Here's another mind-blowing fact about Africa. The cloud computing industry is growing massively, and at DEMO Africa, Alexander Mehlhorn from South Africa will be pitching about his startup's cloud solution to an audience eager to understand how innovation is pitching forward on the continent.
We've been asking a series of questions to entrepreneurs based in Africa in the run up to the Microsoft BizSpark-sponsored event in Nairobi on October 24. Mehlhorn's Framework One specializes in bespoke enterprise system development and business process automation using the cloud, namely Windows Azure services.
According to Mehlhorn, "Rapid development is done using our own in-house developed framework “CloudCore” and custom built Visual Studio extensions. Our focus is on automating your business processes to ensure you can rapidly deliver high quality cost effective products/ services to your clients. We are able to maintain a high level of scalability whilst decreasing your overall expenditure by understanding and applying cloud computing principles."
We asked him a few questions about his experience as an entrepreneur, and this is what he told us.
BizSpark: What have you learned about managing a technological business that you would pass on to the next generation?
In the age of cloud computing and SaaS, all tools a technology driven company requires can be found online at a much lower cost of ownership than setting up a traditional, on-site IT infrastructure.
BizSpark: What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning? When I justifiably know that we have improved their business to an extent where they now spend less or make more money than we are costing them.
BizSpark: When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
When I realized the benefits of SaaS for any business and was able to adjust our own offering by using Windows Azure as a platform for our own system framework.
Visit us to see how you can become a Microsoft BizSpark company, which offers free software, support and visibility to startups making less than one million dollars in revenue each year. Visit these sites for more information on DEMO Africa, and Lions@frica.
If you are going to tinker with robotics, mobile app building and anything that a strong developer toolkit could produce, you are going to want to do it in Estonia, according to this TechCrunch report. Young people who get involved with these projects, and then turn to building their own apps and startups produce twice the amount of value for their economy than in other countries.
Estonia, a country of 1.3 million people, has numbers to back up that programs like this could help its economy. It’s produced stats that indicate that each IT job creates “twice the added value for Estonia compared to the average in other economic spheres.” In other words, it’s not a particularly wealthy country, and these skills contribute a much-needed boost to its GDP.
I wish that teachers did more in school to encourage students to work and study with a mind towards building their own country. I've often wondered if we exist in a weird historical bubble that has convinced those of is in the developed world to think that after school is a ready, able and willing group of companies that is eagerly awaiting laborers for the tasks at hand. I don't believe the world needs that.
That was then.
This is now.
Part of the YouthSpark initiative, which will invest $500 million to help 300 million children over three years to become conversant in technology, is set to put technology in the hands of students in a way that massively shift the mindsets they have in pursuing a future.
Microsoft's work here has already lifted many out of poverty, so this next three year initiative could have a dramatic global effect in how children perceive the work they can do to help themselves and help their communities. I may have a bit of a bias here. I do work for Microsoft, but I also generally and genuinely believe that technology use and creating apps, or building startups, is the single biggest savior we have to help economies around the world. This IS our future. We have to make it, as traditional systems just will not support the problems we don't yet know we have, and the current problems, for which we do not have solutions -- ie pollution, fuel crises, diplomatic impasses, etc..
The point is, innovation, and giving any individual continual help to produce new things, creates opportunity for countless others around her or him. Just going to work, or graduating from school to work at a place, just doesn't do much for anyone. There's no growth in something already grown, if you know what I mean. It must be constant innovation and small scale tinkering that ramps up into massively scaled enterprises or projects.
Aaron Stannard, who used to work with us at Microsoft, has written a great blog post about what it is like to build and ship real commercial software. When you read through it, you will wonder, like I do, why startup building is not taught more often. Many of the things that go into building a great company, or a great piece of software, depend on the specific skill sets that teachers already teach in the classroom -- focus, details, writing, communication, math, problem-solving, analysis, iterations, testing. Sure, this all exists in a world of work, but nearly every child given technology or the stack to play around on can do this.
Like Jeff Atwood says, your app is merely a collection of details. There’s really two classes of details that matter:
Marketing engineering, demo apps, copy writing, and graphical design are all investments we made into helping make our product easier to understand.
Documentation, support, and UX are all investments we made into helping make our product easier to use.
The bottom line here is that the auxiliary stuff needed to support your product, like documentation and support infrastructure, take a lot of time to do well. They’re as much a part of your user’s experience as the software is itself.
Software testing and app building can be a new set of skills that drive people to know each other better. When you work to solve other people's problems, you are really not very far away to bringing stability, reassurance, help, and human kindness to a society. I think of software as being another communication channel. It's like the friendly neighbor who can lend a listening ear, or who comes over with something you need, in your time of need.
The more people who reach out to others and build, or engineer, solutions for massive problems, the easier it is to build value, not just in economies, but in people's lives.
We are covering the live stream of the Windows 8 launch in New York City right here.
We’ve decided that offering accelerator classes for startups using Microsoft resources will not be a fad. Starting today, we are launching the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure. All that means is that for the next 13 weeks, ten startups from all over the world will be working on mobile apps, cloud-based solutions and the next big thing using resources supplied by our Accelerator program in Seattle.
For more information on the accelerator class, please see this blog post written by Scott Guthrie.
The response to the program has been astounding; we received nearly 600 applications from entrepreneurs from 69 countries around the world, spanning a host of industries including retail, healthcare, banking, real estate, and more.
So, yes. We’ve said it before – and meant it – with the Microsoft Accelerator for Azure. You can track what’s happened with those startups on our Facebook group, and you can keep going to that Facebook group for updates on this class.
This accelerator movement proves two things: one that Microsoft is serious about helping startups grow to scale, and not just by giving them free software, which is a hallmark of the Microsoft BizSpark program (where we give free software to startups that are less than five years old, and bringing in revenue of less than US$1 million each year).
Two, it means that there is community associated with a startup’s engagement with Microsoft. Not only are they being introduced to a network that includes TechStars greats and the legacy of the companies that have worked with them in the past. But you are introduced to a startup community that includes 50,000 other entrepreneurs and developers just like you.
Here are the startups that are going to be in the new class:
If you want more information on this class, or more information on Microsoft BizSpark, in general, you can follow these startups along in their accelerator journey by following our blog and
following us on twitter: @bizspark and @windowsazure and by tracking the Accelerator hashtag at #msaccel.
Over the next few months, we’ll be doing interviews with the startups and posting their Twitter handles.
Rather than help a consumer become more efficient, it's important to help them solve everyday, basic problems in their day. Simple, right? But this is the kind of statement that really bring value to having a mentor.
We'd like to introduce another African entrepreneur. Patrick Ndjientcheu, who created DJOSS TV, received some very strong advice from one of his mentors recently, and it's one of things I am always keeping in mind about the way consumers choose -- or don't choose - a product. This thinking states that consumer are more concerned with how the product fits into their lives, and helps them complete actions.
It reminds me a lot of how Clayton Christensen's Jobs to be done works. People don't make choices based on what you tell them a product does. They make choices about a product based on whether or not the product does something for their lives. Here's a brief interview with Ndjientcheu, who will be presenting at DEMO Africa on October 24. I've also included his pitch video, because it demonstrates what DJOSS TV does.
BizSpark: Who is your mentor, and what was the last great thing he or she told you and your team?
We currently have 2 mentors : 1. Ismael NZOUETOM, founder and CEO of the award winning french startup I-Dispo. 2. Rebecca Enonchong, AppsTech CEO and a seasoned entrepreneur. Some months ago, while we were preparing our pitch for a challenge, Ismael told us :
"Don't forget: people don't care about your product, the only thing that matters to them is how it is going to change their life." This really struck us, as we were too focused on the product. From that time forward, we devoted more time to better understanding our users in order to be able to actually change their lives.
When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
Some months ago...with Evernote.
Our affair began via the web clipper. These days, I am so frustrated that I have to bookmark entire pages, although I am just interested in a paragraph or a sentence...In a search for a better web companion, I discovered Evernote and I was immediately delighted by the frictionless web clips capturing experience. Some web clips later, I also stopped using my desktop and iPhone notes software and switched to Evernote. Overnight, I found myself really "remembering everything". At this point, I realised I was going to spend my life with Evernote.
Helping students to become the next generation of start-ups is a huge area of focus within Microsoft right now. So our new lead for start-ups and student projects for Microsoft in Sweden – Therese Thorstorp – is a great fit, not just because of her IT know-how, but because she herself a student until only a couple of years ago, so she remembers what it is like bridging that scary gap between graduation and entering the world of work.
Therese shares her view on the challenges and opportunities of the Swedish market, in her own words, but first, here’s a little bit more information about her background.
Therese Thorstorp, Students and Startups Projects Lead, Stockholm, Sweden
“I studied at Stockholm, University, where I was lucky enough to be nominated for and then become a finalist for the IT Girl of the Year, which is an annual competition in Sweden. At the finals of the event, I met the local Microsoft team and we kept in touch. After I graduated, I was an IT consultant for a while, before Microsoft contacted me to see if I was introduced in joining them in an exciting new role that combines entrepreneurial and academic skills.
“It’s only a few years since I was a student myself, so I can remember what it was like and that really helps me to connect with the students here in Sweden. And it is great sitting in meetings with my old professors!”
“Sweden is a challenging market for start-ups. We only have a population of around 9 million people, so the domestic market is very limited, meaning that most businesses have to focus on export from very early in their evolution. Innovation is part of our DNA – we know we have to innovate to survive – and we have some great role Swedish models, including the founders of Skype, Spotify, H&M and Ikea. Swedish start-ups have the confidence to know they can take on the world.”
“We are also lucky to have such a high calibre of education system. Education is free in Sweden, so it is easier for students to gain places at the universities of their choice compared to some other countries.”
“I’m currently organising a major tour of Swedish universities, starting on October 27th, which will include guest speakers and technology workshops, including a chance for students to get hands-on experience of Windows 8. We aim to show Swedish students how developing Windows 8 can help them get their great ideas to market more quickly.”
Size is a challenge
“The university tour is just the first of a number of events, which will also include a Windows 8 introduction day for start-ups in November and a Windows 8 Hackathon hosted at Skype’s offices. These will take advantage of the thriving meet-up scene for entrepreneurs in Stockholm, but it is equally important that we reach out to other areas. There is a huge amount of innovation outside of the capital city, but apart from Gothenberg – our second largest city – there is less of a physical meet-up culture. Sweden is a very big country and it can be hard for innovators out in rural areas to connect with potential partners, investors, customers and other supporters.”
“At the moment, I’m meeting as many students and start-ups in the country as possible. I’m awed by the high level of innovation, which we’re seeing in all kinds of market areas, but particularly around social community and consumer applications. Out of a long list, if I have to pick just two, I’d like to namecheck Blicko, a very cool start-up was created by three former students from the Royal School of Technology who are making a social jukebox application . Users collaborate by suggesting and voting on songs to achieve a dynamic playlist that truly reflects listeners’ preferences. I’d also like to call out Tipser, who are developing a social ecommerce solution – watch this space for more information!”
These are exciting times to be involved in student and start-ups in Sweden and I love being part of a team that is doing its best to make a difference for the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
Lucas Carlson is a magician and developer who lost ten years worth of projects when his server melted down. His solution is a little bit of cloud magic.
He came up with AppFog, a Microsoft BizSpark company, which reduces time and helps developers work across any programming platform, and let's operational people and devs work simultaneously on projects without getting messy. Here's the video documentary explaining it. According to Carlson, "Microsoft has been extremely innovative" in their cloud hosting solutions, "and that has been very helpful."
AppFog with Microsoft BizSpark from AppFog on Vimeo.
BizSpark has grown so large that it now covers over 100 countries and about 50,000 startups. We have recently started a BizSpark Ambassador series, which takes you into the minds of startuppers around the world, and helps you get a view to what is actually happening on the ground in various countries.
The BizSpark story cannot be just one point of view, and it isn't. With about 50,000 startups in it, it only makes sense to have ambassadors in almost every country we are growing in to showcase what they see in the countries where they innovate and iterate their products and companies. Last week we covered Brazil. This week, we are looking into Calcutta, India.
Meet Arunava Chatterjee, founder of WebWizard Technologies.
Well, to be very honest.. managing a technological business is always needs 100% dedication, eagerness to learn and adopt new things everyday. If you are a technical guy, you also have to adopt managerial skills very fast to improve organization's scalability. If you want to make your venture a successful one, you need to devote 24/7/365 on it.
Getting good resources. I personally took 100's of interviews to sort out good, dedicated resources.
What problem are you facing now?
As we are also a start-up, we are applying for fund raising..but the success rate is not good here in India. We don't have the crowd funding concept here. I tried to apply on various crowd funding websites, but all of them are looking for US Incorporation Certificates. As we are India based, we don't have that. One of our SaaS-based product is not scaling up due to funds. We know there is potential, but we can't proceed at this moment.
What were you successful in doing this week?
Got a great client this week. X Trade Brokers. We are doing their web based trading portal. XTB is a McLaren Mercedes F1 team sponsor.
What advice do you have to give about securing funding, working with code, or building a scaleable business?
Always try to incorporate your business in a start-up friendly environment. It will be helpful to get good resource as well as help you with good mentors. Try to make a genuine product to attract VC's ..but at first try for crowd funding.. You never know, you might get a chance to get a partner as well.. Always try to maintain code base for later use.
Write biographies or interview your partners in the field. Who are they and introduce them to our community.
Actually our story is a little different.. I was working as a freelancer in my college days.. At that time it was just for fun and getting some extra money. We were three in total. Though we were in college, we still tried our level best to maintain professionalism. It clicked. We formed a company. It was in 2008. But after few months we felt, we need to adopt more to maintain and to sustain properly in this business. I got a support of my Mom at that time. Everybody left the company and my mom continued the business .. In later 2011 I finally left my job and came into the business again. After that I got another partner. We are three (3) partners now.
Arunava Chatterjee: Me
Anita Chatterjee : My mom. Technology enthusiast. But completely non technology person. Age 55. She has over 20 years of marketing experience and teaching experience in Insurance domain. Nowadays, she helps us on recruitment as a recruitment head and maintain finance.
Sanjib Ghosh : A serial entrepreneur. Age 47.He is having a Hardware & Networking business for the last 14 years. Named : Hertech Infotech. He has other export oriented business as well.
Work culture in our office is very friendly. We are always in touch with each an every person associated with Webwizard Technologies. We always take opinions of every body.
Repeat Business and sometime Bonus from Clients :)
Officially we work Monday to Friday 10am to 7pm IST and we have a half day on Saturdays. On every Saturday(10am to 2pm), we schedule a meeting where everyone has the same right to ask or consult .
To be very honest 1. is Mr. Narayan Murthi (Founder of Infosys Ltd) and 2.is Mr.Bill Gates . If I get a chance, I'd like to learn the sustainable growth strategies and how to develop next gen leaders who will be our base in coming days.
Mr.Hari Balasubhramaniam (Founder & Director of Ontrack Systems Ltd) . He guided me quite nicely about the market prospects and orientation on mobile apps domain.
Successfully closed some deals and started creating team for mobile apps. They are working with us now.. Attended a Job Fair for the first time as a recruiting company.
Very tough question. One is Mr.Alok Kejriwal of Games2Win. One of their app is in top 5 position in iPhone and Android app store.
Last week :) Still playing his app :)
Initially some funding.. so that we can hire a good marketing team and as well as can start social media marketing, Advertisements on Internet etc.
As we started as a service based company and trying to move onto product base, Getting more clients and growing will be the initial but with a must focus on product.
It makes a man very very busy and perfect on your ultimate goal. Made me much more focused on a particular issue.
Entrepreneurs can visit Microsoft BizSpark and discover how they can benefit from receiving free software and in some cases free instance hours on Windows Azure, subject to availability and certain qualifying conditions.
You can find Arunava on Twitter @InArunava
On Facebook (Company) , and in these groups where he shares content and interacts with other developers and entrepreneurs.
Bangalore Start-ups (https://www.facebook.com/groups/blrstartups/)
Startup Saturday - Kolkata (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ssgenie/)
TIE Kolkata (https://www.facebook.com/groups/tiekolkata/)
Hyderabad Startup (https://www.facebook.com/groups/325376410863612/)
Kolkata IT Professional (https://www.facebook.com/groups/kolkatait/)
Kolkata IT Startups (https://www.facebook.com/groups/kolkataitstartup/)
Private Equity (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2209640960/)
Pune Startups (https://www.facebook.com/groups/punestartups/)
Find a Co-Founder (https://www.facebook.com/groups/250854118266951/)
DEMO Fall starts this week and as before, the Microsoft BizSpark team is heading to Santa Clara with a group of BizSpark Startups and our friends from Startup America. DEMO serves as a launchpad for companies, helping them secure venture funding, establish critical business relationships, and influence early adopters.
Microsoft BizSpark teamed up with DEMO to offer select scholarships to DEMO Fall 2012 for startups to launch their venture: four lucky companies will be delivering a six-minute pitch on stage this week, and a total of twelve startups will be exhibiting in the BizSpark pavilion. Recipients of the scholarships for DEMO Fall have innovative solutions for Cloud, Mobile, Consumer, Enterprise and Infrastructure. We’ll be announcing the companies tomorrow. Stay tuned.
DEMO also makes a launchpad available to innovators at America’s finest colleges and universities through its Student Alpha Pitch program. Full scholarships have been provided by the Microsoft BizSpark team to ten deserving individuals and groups with meaningful new technologies ready for debut at DEMO Fall 2012. to the worldwide DEMO audience. These very early stage ventures and ideas are always well-received by the DEMO audience and Alpha Pitches at DEMO Fall 2012 will no doubt continue to inspire and entertain. Watch out for more information are they are unveiled on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and appear in the DEMO pavilion.
Startup outlook in Brazil
Being an entrepreneur in Brazil is a lesson in how to accept excitement and the roller coaster of dismay, elation, frustration and success. Despite the fact that there’s a lot of local problems (most of them well known), there are also a lot of opportunities and good initiatives coming from all sides.
Our BizSpark Brazil Ambassador Carlos Eduardo Pinto, who is co-founder at BizSpark startup Pratical One, writes about Brazil, from Brazil.
Let’s take a look at how it’s going.
There are several incubators growing in the main cities. One of them is MIDI, in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina state, where my startup Pratical One is hosted.
In the beginning, I was not sure about it, especially since I could not figure out how it could help my company. My main focus at the time was on acquiring customers, so I didn't see how an incubator would work to my benefit in this case.
This is, I have discovered, a typical response to the growth of new incubators in a startup hub (or in a place that is quickly becoming one, like Brazil). But I went into it asking questions. Now I realize that incubation doesn’t put you in touch with customers, as I thought. They teach you how to do that, how to understand the market, how to be prepared to face investors and also brings some “facilities” on the day-to-day, like marketing and legal consulting and office rental. It's a place to learn. Or, more accurately, it's a place to put you in the space to learn, so that while you are growing your business, you are also constantly fine-tuning the mechanism that makes you a better startup.
There are other opportunities in Brazil that help in this process. Here are a few:
The Anjos do Brazil (Angels of Brazil) is a non-profit angel investor network "dedicated to foster angel investment for supporting innovative entrepreneurs." Among their many tasks, besides joining investors, they also organize competitions among startups that could showcase their projects in order to receive investments.
CONAJE (National Council of Young Entrepreneurs) has the target to articulate and disseminate practices that strength the dissemination of new and solid business. Quite often there are meetings per verticals to discuss about market, taxes, best practices etc.
For those who also look for some fun, Endeavor (global nonprofit that transforms emerging countries by supporting High-Impact Entrepreneurs) organizes happy hours around the country to join startups, investors and media. It’s a good chance to meet people, exchange cards and have some beers.
If my objective was to write a list about all those things we can use in Brazil to boost startups, I would waste a lot of space. Endeavor, FIESC, FIESP, SEBRAE and so many others has programs to help the “business dreamers”.
With all that said, I can assure that entrepreneurs are not alone, and they must not be. The chances to learn and improve business are around us, and it’s just about to choose one and use it the best we can.
Brazil Startups should also look into Microsoft BizSpark, a global initiative created by and run by Microsoft for startups, which provides free software, support and marketing visibility so that startups can grow to scale.
In a place like Silicon Valley, it can sometimes feel like companies are started simply because it’s the thing to do. Just as beanie babies were all the rage during my middle school years, I’ve met founders more enamored with the idea of starting a company than the technology being developed or problem getting solved. I understand this mindset as well as the next entrepreneur, because it mirrors my own path to finding the right idea to focus on.
This blog post was written by Keaton Swett, CEO, MindSumo.
The MindSumo Gents, members of Microsoft BizSpark
As young, hungry (and certainly wet behind the ears) entrepreneurs, my co-founders and I were eager to change how people shared opinions with friends developing a new photo-ranking web app. Users could post sets of pictures for their friends to rank in order of preference, providing a fun and social way to receive feedback through photo sharing. We quickly realized that the tool was more useful to teenage girls looking to get their friends’ opinions on outfits and haircuts than anything else. Nothing against teenage girls, but just weren’t passionate about building a product, (let alone a company) focused on that market.
So, we did what scores of entrepreneurs had done before us – we pivoted. Was it daunting and terrifying? You bet it was. Were there times we wondered whether we should have just continued with our old product? Too many to count. However, we knew that finding the idea we were truly passionate about was what we needed to be successful both personally and professionally.
Luckily, after a great deal of soul searching, market analysis, and advice seeking from mentors, we struck oil with the idea for a marketplace where companies post challenges for college students to solve. As recent college students ourselves, we were passionate about helping students stand out and prove their skills, while giving companies a better method for identifying student candidates. Thus, our new company MindSumo was born, and we have been enjoying the wild ride ever since.
Could the old photo-sharing idea have worked with a wide audience of teenage girls? Perhaps, but that’s not the point. The point is that founders work way too hard to focus on ideas that aren’t meaningful to them. It may sound cliché, but I think Confucius was onto something when he said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
What does MindSumo Do? In Keaton's own words:
We help companies craft their challenges that are posted for college students to solve. This helps the companies get a much better feel for student candidates. We also are compiling a great amount of data with each student profile, which will one day be used as a search database for companies to identify the right candidates.
It's time to do a quick roundup of what African entrepreneurs did this past week, while they were building their companies.
DEMO Africa ended on Friday, but that won't stop us from running our remaining interviews with some of the participants.
Big congratulations go to two of our Microsoft BizSpark members, SASA Africa and Flowgear, who both came away with the coveted DEMO Lion title out of a field of 40. In truth, the field was much bigger, since this competition was open to all of Africa.
In the run up to DEMO Africa -- and during -- we showcased the work of the several dozen entrepreneurs who bravely presented their ideas to the judges.
Hilda Moraa, MyOrder
Managing a technological business as an individual is not possible. It requires a team that is passionate, talented and believes in technology as a strategic tool and not the magical solution to solve all problems. Understanding the technological development methodology and processes is also important to facilitate ensure easier management of the business.
I have also learnt that the most important thing is to execute and do it fast. As a technological business is dynamic, hence one needs to execute, release their product, test and validate. Its better to fail early then learn from the feedback that should inform a young business how to validate their products, answer their assumptions and plan effectively what should change or be added as valuable features in order to be successful. Most important, I have learnt it’s important to connect the technology with business. As the technology solution cannot work solemnly, one needs to identify how they can use that technology as an enabler to then solve the real needs that will create revenue or ‘scratch an itch’
What came first for your company – the product idea or your existence on the internet?
The existence of the Internet came first. And it was through this existence that the development of electronic tools, infrastructure, protocols of communication that have then had a huge impact to the development of electronic commerce. Including the rise of telecommunications that has resulted to rapid numbers of mobile subscribers to further facilitate execution of commercial transactions electronically.
Thanks to the growth of the Internet access via mobile phones, many businesses today are not only interested in showcasing their products online, but also allowing their customers to transact by placing orders. Their customers would like to do so through the most convenient device at their disposal: their mobile phones. A need that Myorder retail has bridged by offering a hosted solution that puts a “mobile menu” in the hands of a customer. Items that one has for sale can be selected, and orders placed. Each business gets a simple, attractive mobile web catalog. Notifications are sent to a designated mobile phone of choice when an order is placed, detailing the name and phone number of the customer, current location, as well as the pricing and details of the order.
Kekeli Buckner, KKYB Productions
I have learned a lot about managing a technological business but two of the most important things I have learned include the fact that technology keeps developing and in order to stand out as a business in that field we must be abreast with the latest trends in the industry and be innovative too.
I have also learnt to work effectively with my team and not make decisions single handedly because some of them know more than I do in the field of technology. So basically what I would pass on to the next generation is that they should think smart, be creative, work together as a team and keep the right attitude because one cannot know it all.
For this week I would say Mrs. Gloria Buckman Yankson inspired me most. She is the CEO of Planit Ghana and has been nominated for the 2nd International Award in under a year via the 2012 Ghana UK Based Achievement (GUBA) Awards. I saw it on her facebook profile. Even though I have not spoken to her yet, I have been to events where she was giving a talk and just from listening to her you can almost understand why she is so successful. Her work ethic really inspires me.
Maxwell Donker, INNOQIK
Managing a Technological Business is very interesting. Unlike others Business whose management revolves about Business, with Technological Companies, you not only manage the business but also the technological growth and sustainability of it. One major lesson I have learnt is to one has to keep up with time and if possible be ahed of time. Technology evolves every second. Something that works better and fine today may not be up to the accepted standard the next day. You always have to make your product and business relevant to your client else the business takes a down turn.
Maxwell: Well, we have not been in business for a year yet, but in the short period we have been operating, a major challenge has been the process of taking clients through the learning curve and managing change. Customers always want more even when they were ignorant of the impending need. We have to help them match our services and value proposition to their needs and deliver efficiently.
How do you know when you are failing in Product Development and how do you make a correction - do you make the decision on your own, or do you consult your team?
Most of the time, decisions for corrections is in consultation with the team. This is because the decision to take a particular line or route is initiated by myself but discussed and agreed at the team level. That way everyone buys into the vision and revised to make the most out of that decision. With that in place, when changes are going to be made, every member of the team must be made aware and ready to shift for the change to take place. Identifying failure in Product development is mainly through quality assurance analysis which is also agreed at the initiation of each product segment, that way once we are out of line with our blue print we automatically know something is failing which can either be from a good source or bad.
Some of the few signals from consumers that signify our product or service is winning is when consumers continue to use our services and ask for more improvement and efficiency. That make me know we are still solving a need and have to make it more efficient. Another is when they are willing to give advice and share ideas t improve service delivery.
Microsoft BizSpark Member Eric Edelstein, EVLY
Be prepared for a fast but exciting journey, and accept that change will happen constantly in the early stages of growing the business. Every day at evly is an adventure.
evly is a startup, so of course, funding, funding, funding! The other thing is that as evly is in such a new cutting edge industry, the evly team spends a lot of energy and effort educating the marketplace.
For most of my life, I would have said Richard Branson, but in the last few years, after reading the "7 Day Weekend", I would jump at the opportunity to be mentored by Ricardo Semler, who has steered the fastest growing company in South America, SEMCO.
I have a number of mentors - the last coffee I had with one of my mentors, they told me their story of how they built up their business's - that kept me inspired for days.
Obviously, the number 1 item was when evly was chosen as one of the top 40 in the Demo-Africa competition, allowing us to represent South Africa in Kenya in October. Also, every time we get feedback from one of the organisations using the evly software that they're getting the desired results from our software, it gets me overjoyed.
The evly team - they are the most passionate team I've ever had the pleasure of working with.
About 10 minutes ago when I last looked at the evly website, and saw what we were creating.
The organisations who use our software need to have the ability to realise that organisations who succeed in the future will need to have "constructive engagement" with their customers & fans in order to be successful.
We came up with an idea for evly, and then launched the company, and although we've pivoted a number of times to refine the product idea, the long term vision has always remained consistent.
Is the lean startup process a type of marketing, or is marketing different from customer and product development?
The "lean startup" should be a mindset for the company, as a whole. Get the forward momentum going as quickly as possible, test constantly, iterate, and change quickly and nimbly when required.
How does your company utilize next generation marketing techniques?
evly is a next generation company as a whole - our marketing follows that.
At DEMO Fall, there were a few trends, but culture as an app was the one that caught my idea. One of the companies tackling startups through culture is DreamWare, helmed by a sociologist and an anthropologist.
This post was written by Microsoft BizSpark community manager Douglas Crets.
DreamWare founder and BizSpark member Michael Jacobs and Jordan Syms talked to me about their app iSocialite.
Andrew Sullivan is right about the death of print. Newsweek print may be a dead beast in the muck - and for the good. What it means for digital, though, is extremely important. Digital media is about delivering people to people, rather than delivering people to a platform where they have to then imagine their next moves with an abstract notion called the Public.
We are all in the public now, and so directly accessible, that we don't have to believe in generalities. We have to believe in the right things to say, the right things to think, and the right actions to perform. News media, or journalism, is transforming into fixing people's problems, rather than reporting on them.
As Sullivan points out:
There's a reason why Drudge Report and the Huffington Post are named after human beings. It's because when we read online, we migrate to read people, not institutions. Social media has only accelerated this development, as everyone with a Facebook page now has a mini-blog, and articles or posts or memes are sent by email or through social networks or Twitter."
Everyone thinks about the technology or the device -- a dead tree or a tablet -- but all we are talking about here, for the future, is giving people the direct insights of the most important events in their life from the right people, as near to immediate as possible.
And if you look at one of the Microsoft BizSpark companies that is working in media, Flud, you can see one of the first steps in this direction. There is no alliance to a news or media institution. It's highly curated content, meant to be consumed around context and relationships.
Death is an easy metaphor, because it's so huge, and it commands attention. And tech reporting uses it. A lot. But what if you, like, really die? What perspective does that bring you?
This post is written by Douglas Crets, the Community Manager for Microsoft BizSpark
Chip Conley, former CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, gave what was probably the most important keynote address of any conference I have been to, while opening up FailCon in San Francisco on Monday. It was a story about how he had to stop managing the successful hotel chain he managed, and find the things in life that he is passionate about, and really get out of the skin he was in and find a new self for himself.
Here's what he said, and here is why I think it's relevant to tech startup founders and developers to understand what he said.
Some background: Conley has gone through two recessions (and this one, globally speaking, is actually more like a depression). His son landed in federal prison for eight months. He lost a relationship. One of his best friends committed suicide. He was not happy as Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Joie de Vivre, of one of the coolest hotel chains in the world, after it had been bought by Geolo Capital. And then one day in 2008, an infection that started after a broken leg got infected became so severe that Chip Conley died. Business, quite simply, got serious.
"I had a death wish; I didn't want to be the identity I was anymore," Conley told the crowd of tech founders, startuppers, and developers, all who paid their entry fee to listen to stories about how really, really successful people, have failed in life.
At some point in 2008, Conley, who was dealing with several life pressures that would have made anyone want to give up on more than one occasion, gave a talk at a hotels conference and collapsed on stage, and died. His heart stopped beating.
What the man could not do for himself, some other something did for him. He learned a valuable lesson -- that there was something entirely important about finding the things in your life that bring you pleasure and happiness, and to do them, to take them up as your personal activities of choice, to really live through them. Or, quite simply, you are not living.
He explained that it was important to have good "psychic hygiene," or to take a "big psychic bath together," so that we understand the reality of life. "We need a catharsis," he said. Crisis, as the late psychotherapist Carl Jung has said, brings us to a moment of transition, and we should be listening to that crisis. In the seeds of that crisis is our humanity.
The reason that this is important to developers is simple, I think. I think it points to exactly why we live -- the world, for all that it could be, is also a kind of series of problems that need to be solved. And the solutions to those problems are often meaningful in themselves. But they are empty solutions if they really do not provide meaning for other people who might also use those solutions to solve their problems.
Refinements on standard operation procedures, or simple features to smartphone apps, are not really going to create meaning. And they really are not that necessary in the long term.
There is also an even greater lesson in Conley's speech to people wishing to take in the insights from those who have failed. The lesson is that perhaps you really need to go through some crisis or a problem before you really can have the kind of understanding that would, in turn, help people believe in the solution you are building them. A solution is a kind of stamp of the soul of its creator. If you really have seen the muck. If you really have been at the door of your own demise, or been through some really hard times, that will come out in your ethos, and in your passionate work and attention to detail.
You know that there is always someone else on the other end of the line, or the connection, and they value their life as much as you value yours. Make something that speaks to that life.
Being a start-up is never easy but some markets are particularly challenging. The healthcare sector is arguably one of these, because of the (understandably) often complex layers of legislation and scientific validation required, so adoption of new innovation can be lengthy.
MiMedication attended health2con.com, held in San Francisco over the past three days. They are a healthcare start-up based in Belgium that has developed a simple and easy way for patients suffering from lung disease (more formerly known Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD) to manage their symptoms more effectively. While MiMedication is experiencing some strong early success, it has encountered some hurdles along the way. CEO and founder Mitchell Silva describes some of the challenges of innovating in the healthcare sector and how MiMedication is trying to tackle these.
CEO Mitchell Silva writes:
“We launched MiMedication in early 2012. We are in the position of being able to view the market from both the patient and the medical profession’s point of view: I’m an entrepreneur who happens to have a rare lung disease, while my business partner, Erard le Beau de Hemricourt is a medical doctor in nuclear medicine, with an impressive track record. I’ve also got a PhD in bio-science engineering (specifically on cough sound analysis of COPD and asthma patients.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) affects between 4-10 per cent of people in the developed world. While many of them have yet to be diagnosed, managing the healthcare of this group of patients is a big issue for the medical profession and has a big impact on the cost of the healthcare system. One of the biggest challenges is to minimise ‘exacerbation’ through self-management.
This is where miMedication comes in, providing a simple and easy way for patients to record and monitor their symptoms, be aware of the impact of medication and of course, providing healthcare professionals with patient data that they can in turn use to support them more efficiently. The service is free to patients and our revenue model is based on working with the B2B healthcare market, such as home care and pharmaceutical companies.
Healthcare market is hard
Having a great idea for a healthcare application is just the first step. Working with the healthcare and public sector in general can be challenging, for several reasons: the decision making process is complex and length; independent scientific or medical validation or endorsement is often required in order for a product or service to be considered seriously; and medical legislation varies widely across European countries. All this means that launching a medical-based start-up can involve lobbying as much as it does traditional sales and marketing.
To help address all this, we focused from our very early days on partnering with the right organisations. For instance, we have an advisory board, which includes academics, doctors, pharmacists, the Belgian lung COPD patient association and Microsoft. The challenge is to translate the needs from the care providers into understandable actions for the patients that also motivate them to become empowered patients. All these contacts have been a great help at all stages of our evolution to date.
So given the hurdles, would I discourage a start-up from focusing on the healthcare sector? In fact, I say the opposite. Commercially, healthcare IT is a huge growth market and while it can be challenging for small organisations, there are some great opportunities for innovative start-ups. From a philanthropic point of view, using IT to help eliminate or minimise the impact of disease and illness is a great aspiration.”
Mitchell Silva’s top tips for other healthcare IT start-ups:
We work and live in a startup culture that prizes money, funding, success over things like failure, which is actually one of the most important things that can happen to a founder or a developer.
This blog post was written by Douglas Crets, Community Manager for Microsoft BizSpark. For information on how you can get free software and support from Microsoft, visit our BizSpark pages.
Fail is perhaps the most important ingredient in success, because in failing we find the seeds of our transformation. This is something that Carl Jung learned and wrote about in his famous Red Book, during nearly a decade of separation from the teachings of Sigmund Freud, the onset of World War I, and the tangible and sickening anxiety caused by a nearly global transition of countries and cities into the modern era.
And it's something that the leading innovators of the current day go through before they invent, make or develop some of the objects and services we consider essential in our lives. We can forget that, when so much of what we read and experience seems to be about the finished product. This lesson was starkly presented at FailCon this week in San Francisco. FailCon is a really interesting cultural experience of failure, presented by Cass Phillips, founder. It's a way of getting people to focus on the seeds of success, rather than to think about and glorify only those who have succeeded. Here are a few notes from that event, which highlight this lesson. I feel strongly that other founders and developers should take away ideas from these notes. It's one of the things that make working on a startup fun, in hindsight. No glory without struggle, as they say.
Suneel Gupta, VP of Product Development, Groupon
First we hear from Suneel Gupta, VP of Product Development at Groupon. Yes, so Groupon is apparently struggling, when it comes to stock price, but there's an untold story here. First of all, how many buzz-worthy startups have IPO'd in the past three years? How did they get to a public offering? What did they learn along the way? What role did Suneel play in making sure the teams put together a great product? How did they iterate in the runup to the IPO and what lessons did they have to learn in order to push something out that people felt enough confidence in that they invested what they did?
Bullets are easy to hide behind
It's hard to stop to actually put down a creative concept on paper, but it’s also a really important thing to do. It gives you ownership of the idea, it creates a tangible connection to what you want to get out the door.
You need the right team, time to get something done.
Go slow. Your minimal viable product should be like the tip of the iceberg. But about 1/3 of what you want out there, and that is where you start. “We made a fundamental mistake and we went after all of this at once,” says Suneel. After being excited about seeing features and an end goal, “We tried to build all the products, when we thought about minimal, we thought about quality.” Taking half of those features, and making those features fantastic is actually the right thing to do, even when your engineers are so gung ho about what they love building that they don't want to stop.
Don’t go down a vortex of time. You really want to get to your next act.
Don't forget about the ‘art of the question,’ learn that asking great questions leads you to a better and better product. Don't assume that you know what is good for your consumer or user group. You don't. They do, though. The excellent question gives you the right data and the right feedback to make something amazing.
As a developer, a founder, or someone on the product team, you have to constantly ask, "Do we go after ideas and questions that only solidify what we already know? Or do we pursue things that tell us what we don’t know? A user experience will tell you about what startups do for people, but most startups stop at this point of getting data. They need to listen to the data that tells you that the hypothesis is wrong." Suneel points to asking great questions, but also really paying close attention to user interaction. He points to a focus group where Groupon engineers and product managers asked users to tell them answers to questions and to narrate their experience of the new product iteration, but, in a fascinating turn of events, they paid close attention to what the users were actually doing when they talked about what they were doing. They were often doing something opposite and experiencing less experience than what they said they were doing and experiencing. Take note, developers, your users are your biggest fans, but they may be telling fibs to themselves!
On this user experience over narrative: “It’s something that I under-indexed on” says Suneel.
Groupon created Rewards using some of this interactive testing, and they made it as a way to make people more loyal to the business, not to Groupon, in the hopes that that loyalty to the shopping experience consumers want to build loyalty with would also create loyalty to Groupon.
Build something to fail fast and to let something go
When do you step back and refactor your own code base vs. continuing to move quickly. (what is the actual pressure to move fast?). Says Suneel: “It was probably the best move we could have made” to hold off on adding new features.
Gina Bianchini, founder of startups MightyBell and Ning
Then we had perhaps the most candid and entertaining fail talk of the day, by Gina Bianchini, who talked eloquently and transparently about Ning and MightyBell, and what's she's learned from seeking and gaining funding.
Here's what she said was important:
We have the notes from our time there under the video.
Find the small moments, plan ahead, and
Most of the colossal failures find their seeds in small moments when decisions could have been made within the focus of the fundamental values of the vision.
What was actually the most important circumstances for her most amazing and thoughtful moments? It was not the stuff that made her think, "I'm a f***ing genius." It was, she says, “The things that were the throwaway moments – oh, f--- we really have to fix this…things you do because you just do them – turn out to be the best ideas ever.”
“You never know where good ideas come from. You have to stay open to people’s feedback, people’s reactions, people’s questions, to the things you build or believe in, and also know when to drive or to adjust.”
Her major lesson from NING was that working with communities gathered around interests, passion and goals has sustained her more than anything else: “I have never seen a more powerful driver of change, of real connection, and I have met some of the most amazing people online, and I just fundamentally enjoy it. I did not know that before NING.”
"You can’t do things without a small group of people who you can be real with”
“I don’t want to go to one of those conferences where everyone is just standing around…drinking from the fire hose of success.” This made me laugh out loud, because it really is true. I don't find a lot of feelings of association around people who believe that they have succeeded or that they are constantly succeeding. For me, those people sound like they are aspiring, and the problem with aspiring, is that despite all the talk about being in the present moment, they are really stuck both in the past and in the future, spending a lot of time drawing energy out of the past and forecasting information into the future. I want to know just how things really are. What makes you real? I am certainly carrying around a backpack full of real and it's not all pretty, and sometimes I really question my success. All I think is important is, "Am I happy?" Have I helped other people to be happy? Do I add to their day?
Gina moved on and said something very important. Her focus was on what has been made for the market, and she said, young, white guys are really too much the bulk of the people deciding the output of tech and products / services for the market. “A lot of stuff is built for a world where there are no chicks in it. And winning teams going forward are going to be paying more attention to gender intelligence and having men and women on teams," she said.
Where BizSpark Fits Into this Equation
We are trying very hard here to bring you quality information from people who can offer real intelligence on building startups. This is part of that effort. If you are running a young startup -- less than five years old - or you are a developer trying to build for a startup, no matter your competency, experience, and beliefs about what stack is best, you should look into the community we are building, starting with joining our tribe of over 50,000 startups using the free software we give them.
You can also read about a whole host of other startups using Azure and building for the cloud.
You can follow us on Twitter, and you can join nearly 40,000 other people like you talking with us daily on Facebook at the Microsoft BizSpark Group.
Dave McClure's 500 startups announced their new class today, and since 9 of those 33 teams are members are BizSpark teams, we have reason to celebrate. Percentage-wise, Microsoft BizSpark members made up nearly 30% of those teams.
Here's a rundown of those companies, and what they do. Congratulations to the teams.
Cinemacraft – Produces an interactive pictorial summary of videos, making video thumbnails come to life
CompStak – Creates transparency in commercial real estate by gathering information that is hard to find, difficult to compile, or currently unavailable
Cubie – A free messenger app for creating drawings and sharing them with friends
Dealflicks – Offers movie tickets and concessions for up to 60 percent off, like Priceline or Hotwire for movie theaters
LaunchGram – Aggregates news about products and launches coming soon in verticals such as movies, electronics, video games, and cars
Privy – An automated digital ad agency that lets customers set a budget and promo, and automatically delivers customers
Repairy – A web-based customer relationship and resource management system for car repair shops and dealerships, integrated with a spare parts marketplace
TouristEye – A travel planner application for the web and mobile devices
WhoAPI – Delivers extensive information about domain data (on a side note, we met the founder of this team in Zagreb at a tweetup held at a bar. Great guy.)
BizSpark has grown so big that now it's time to say goodbye to a rather limited blogging strategy. It used to be that we would run a couple of interviews every week and then have guest blogs from about three or four Microsoft staff and some startups each month.
But BizSpark continues to grow at triple digit percentages each year. It's successful. People know it's successful, so....
The BizSpark story cannot be just one point of view, and it isn't. With about 50,000 startups in it, it only makes sense to have ambassadors in almost every country we are growing in to showcase what they see in the countries where they innovate and iterate their products and companies. Welcome to our new program. We will be putting blog posts up every week from over 20 countries, where entrepreneurs and developers are creating new stuff. We will have blog posts from Uganda, Tunisia, Brazil, Korea, Mexico, and more.
Today, we turn to Brazil, and Carlos Eduardo Pinto, who has been consistently providing reports from Brazil for his startup Pratical One, which is in the shipping and logistics category. If you think you have a hot startup, and you want to have your startup showcased, or if you want to have your views on the market in your area showcased, you should join Microsoft BizSpark, offering free software, support and visibility for thousands of entrepreneurs around the world.
BizSpark: What was the most difficult challenge your business faced this year?
Carlos Eduardo Pinto:
In 2012 we are facing our first year at Pratical One, what make it a bit harder because there are some questions without answers, such as: early in January we still did not know the value we added to customers; and the software was on it first steps, as we were developing basic functionality and fixing problems.
BizSpark: What problem are you facing now?
Carlos Eduardo Pinto:
Pratical One has shown progress. We know better our place on business world, how to deal with our customers and how to advance on the software. Actually, we face a problem of lack of time because we have limited resources (people) to get things done. There’s a lot of good things happening but we are only two partners (my partner as general manager and selling and me as IT manager and a little bit on marketing), one IT developer and one financial intern.
BizSpark: Who are the people you work with, and can you introduce them to our community?
Carlos Eduardo Pinto:
My partner is Rejane Scholles, who has worked logistics for more than 20 years. She lives in Florianopolis/SC (city in the south of Brazil), which is one of the most exciting cities to a startup in Brazil. In Maersk Line, the biggest container shipping company in the world, Rejane was responsible for the sales department, moving forward on operations and so on.
In 2008, she went to a company called Santos Brasil to implement a cargo shipping terminal at Imbituba.
I also had work for Maersk, where we met. A few years later, Rejane sent me a message, inviting me for a happy hour. In that occasion she told me about the project and invites me to start it together, so Pratical One started to grow.
Cost reduction in response of an efficient progress. My customers are going to evaluate things such savings, performance increase or better process response time. I need them to understand that my product can be successful to them on these terms.
You can find Carlos on the web here:
And if you want to look into the shipping and logistics software that Pratical One offers you can find them on Facebook here.
For the Russian speakers out there, here's a very handy series on how BizSpark members AtContent tweaked and worked with Windows Azure to get their company up and running. People who don't read Cyrillic can translate in Bing and enjoy the useful experience. It's important to read it, because they are using Azure as a backend to -- they hope -- transform how publishers and data / media consumers use and share on the web.
AtContent is an interesting disruption in the publishing industry. I talked to Co-Founders, Alexey Semeney and Nikita Berdnikov on a Skype call this week and got to understand the business a little better. Basically, they want to help transform blogging into a pay for articles business, which may sound like music to big publisher ears, and to the ears of small blogging businesses. But it may suffer from some issues, which Alexey and I talked about -- among them, many successful blogs got started by being free. Who will accept a pivot into something that's pay to read? We'll get into that. But first, what is AtContent, and what does it do?
Check out these links to a TechCrunch demo page and the Financial Times, one of the most successful paid circulation newspapers in the world. This Azure-hosted startup wants to make it easy for anyone to distribute articles through social networks, and then use those social networks (as well as the main pages of publishers) to serve as a kind of e-commerce store for information and media. It's a fascinating idea. If AtContent is in place, you can make your daily reading a kind of hub for media distribution, and, through sharing articles to your social networks, you can take a cut of articles you "sell" to your own readership. It's kind of like making your daily reading into a paper route. If only the music industry would have figured this out first, and made it standard practice.
We love our BizSpark startups, and we love the audacity of this Russian startup trying to do this. We think it will be difficult to change mindsets, but it's not impossible. And it may even be lucrative and beneficial to large and small publishers in the long run. Continuing to run on advertising dollars forever just doesn't seem a likely scenario, for any mainstream publication. For the best, this seems like a really great practice for any small scale publisher trying to make it big. People who will spread your articles are incentivized to accept some cut of the transaction to get your name out there for you. Spreading through cash rewards. It has worked in so many other areas, from car sales, to coupon clipping.